It’s not that I eschew the mainstream tourist destinations — seeing the same buildings as millions before me just lacks interest. The Grand Palace? I may get there someday. Temples that require an admission fee? When there are thousands across the country that don’t?
In any case, it was of some interest to discover an area amidst the country’s most well-known sites that offered something of the off-the-beaten-path type of adventure — and perhaps the country’s best cheap souvenirs.
For as little as 5 baht (the same cost as a visit to some public restrooms), you can pick up an amulet of at least some purported strength. As a tourist that doesn’t speak much Thai, you’d be hard pressed to hear or understand the story behind it.
Despite it being a stone’s throw away from some of the biggest mainstream destinations in Thailand, this side of the street remains a mostly local zone. The few tourists around are usually more intent on navigating the crowded sidewalk than perusing the spiritual objects.
Speaking of spiritual objects… I got nothing — the crocodile mouth felt real, but I’ve no idea why it was intermingled with everything else.
The prices, except for the cheapest of the amulets, were rarely displayed. With that said, the 20x and 30x loupes that would enable a very close inspection were also on sale nearby. Need a plastic case or chain to hang it from? They’re around as well. You may notice how most of the amulets are rather new looking — the older, the more valuable.
Don’t forget about the side alleys — at 10 baht apiece, these rings were both heavy and certifiably intriguing. Not pictured nearby are enough cheap food stalls to feed the staff that work in the immediate area — and any tourist that happens to stumble across them.
You can definitely set out and find this area on its own, though it’s well-paired with some of the other mainstream sights nearby. While little else of the weird variety is nearby, you’re really close to the Tha Phra Chan Tai pier — making the Chao Phraya river a great way to get around.
Name: Amulet Market (ตลาดเช่าพระ วัดมหาธาตุ)
Address: along Maha Rat road, Khwaeng Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krungthep Mahanakorn 10200, Thailand (GPS: 13.753407,100.489486)
Directions: I couldn’t blame you for taking a taxi or tuk-tuk to the area — tell them Wat Maha That and look for the Maha Rat road behind the temple towards the river.
Public transportation is easier than expected. From National Stadium BTS, take exit 2 down to street level, make a U-turn, and walk 20 meters to the bus stop. Get on bus 47 and ride for 20–30 minutes (expect Bangkok traffic to get congested on days that end in ‘y’). Get off when you’re in front of the Grand Palace or Sanam Luang (the big park just past it). There’s a side street heading left between the two — head down that for about 400 meters and turn right. The beginning of the market should be across the street to your right.
Alternatively, from Hua Lamphong MRT, look for bus 53 heading west. It’ll stop near the Grand Palace — look for one of the side roads to head towards the river.
Hours: Open until 5pm or so everyday, with Sundays being the busiest day.